What are micro-credentials? What to know about this learning trend

March 1, 2024 By Kit Germeroth

Micro-credentials are one of the fastest-growing innovations in higher education and professional development. Learners love them — and educators are learning to do the same.

In this post, we’re going to look at what micro-credentials are, how they work, and why they matter to you and your students.

What are micro-credentials?

Our credentials are the evidence we can present to demonstrate our knowledge and skills. Universities typically offer large-scale credentials, like degrees. Micro-credentials are at the other end of the spectrum.

Where a degree demonstrates that a learner has deep knowledge of a particular field, micro-credentials typically only verify a single skill or ability. Learners are taught a narrow skill and tested on their ability to perform it effectively.

The majority of micro-credential courses are studied online, letting learners create their own customized approach to their education. Micro-credentials help fill skill gaps, improve career progression, and empower people to make lateral career moves.

How do micro-credentials work?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to micro-credentials. Different micro-credentials will work subtly differently depending on the organization offering the course, the type of skill being evaluated, and learners’ needs.

Lots of different organizations are offering micro-credentials. Professional organizations and governing bodies provide industry-specific training and accreditation to ensure the reputation and performance of the industry. These aim to spread best practices, build trust, and provide structured career progression.

Educational and online learning companies quickly saw the need for workers to “prove” their skills and abilities. Many providers operate different business models — some charge per course, and others offer subscriptions or annual memberships.

Universities and colleges also offer micro-credentials, using their name and reputation to emphasize their high standards and enhance the value of their courses.

The majority of micro-credential courses take place entirely online. Students are presented with modules to work through at their own pace. In some cases, courses can require an in-person or hybrid approach. This can be important for some practical skills, such as first aid.

Most micro-credentials offer a digital badge or certificate that allows students to easily demonstrate their mastery of the skills they have learned. Learners can then include these on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Some courses also allow learners to showcase their work through a final project. These can be made publicly accessible, giving clear evidence of the learner’s abilities.

What are some micro-credential examples?

Let’s look at some concrete examples of how micro-credentials might be used and the types of courses you could offer.

New careers and beginner skills

A short search online finds many career-related micro-credentials for beginners looking to move into a new field. Examples include:

  • Project management
  • Software development and coding
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Graphic design
  • Online marketing

Professional development

Many job roles or industries require specific knowledge. They might also include requirements for regular re-training and refresher courses. These are perfect for micro-credentials. For example:

  • Regulations for medical or health-related industries
  • DEI training
  • Updates for new versions of core software

Personal development

Not all learners looking for micro-credentials will be entirely career-focused. Some might be interested in learning a new skill or interest for their own personal development. This might include:

  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Calligraphy
  • Short history courses

Micro-credentials benefits

It’s clear that micro-credentials benefit learners — they can create the syllabus that meets their needs and prove their skills for employment. Offering these courses is also beneficial for higher education institutions.

Offering micro-credentials helps you attract more students. Not only that, you can appeal to different types of students. Non-traditional students, in particular, are keen to find ways to improve and demonstrate their skills.

For some of these new students, a micro-credential can be a gateway into higher education. Your short courses offer them a taste of what learning with you can offer. This can expand uptake for your traditional longer courses and full degrees.

Micro-credentials can also be an incredibly simple and cost-effective way of teaching. You’ll often be able to repackage existing classes and teaching materials to produce short, highly focused modules that work together to develop a particular skill. So, at a time when higher education funding is becoming ever-tighter, micro-credentials can help you remain competitive.

How Moodle can help with micro-credentials

The good news is that it’s clear by now that micro-credentials are an exciting addition to the courses you can offer to your students. The even better news is that creating them is easy with Moodle for Higher Education.

Moodle is designed with personalized learning in mind. If you’ve already created modules on Moodle, you can repackage them into a new micro-credential. You can also set limits and prerequisites to ensure learners have demonstrated all necessary skills.

Moodle also offers a simple mechanism for providing secure badges for your micro-credentials. Moodle is certified as an Open Badges issuer, meaning that your learners can prove their skills with confidence.

Micro-credentials become even more cost-effective with Moodle’s automated grading options. Students receive instant feedback on their performance without the need for staff to dedicate additional precious time.

You can even use Moodle to guide your micro-credential development. Use our extensive data insights and metrics to help build your programs around key employability skills.

Want to learn more about offering micro-credentials with Moodle?

Get in touch with our team.